The first time we saw an episode of Black Mirror we just happened to be in England. The series, just 3 episdes, had been announced with quite some noise. At least, that’s how I saw it because I happen to read newspaper articles by the same writer of the show. I will be honest: I did not like the first episode at all. Back in The Netherlands, there was nog option to see the whole series, so I put it out of my mind. Until we got Netflix a couple of years later. I started watching the series again. I am happy I did, because it turned out to be one of the best tv series I have seen in years.
Length and Genre
At the time of writing, there are 5 seasons on Netflix with 23 episodes in total. The Dutch Kijkwijzer classifies this for 16 years olds, mostly. I think that is a fair judgement. I hardly think that a younger audience can find amusement in the episodes. The genre is science fiction, but it has some pure drama and thriller elements. Every episode features something different, where a normal aspect of life almost gets pulled out of context. There are episodes about love, crime and technology and every episode delivers an interesting story.
Black Mirror as a collection of short stories
Black Mirror is an collection of stories. Every episode is a stand-alone. And yet every episode feels connected, in the sense that they feel like possible futures, maybe in the same universe. Some episodes feel closer to our world than others. It reminded me a lot of tv shows such as ‘The Outer Limits’ or a better version of ‘The Twilight Zone’. For instance the story about memory-chips, implanted in your brain to show you what you experienced. Or how social media kan help you come to terms with grief over someone’s passing. There are robots, alternative punishments for crimes, or how your life gets dictated by wanting to be popular. All the stories deal with technology that seems just about a step further than what we have now.
But some episodes go a bit further and veer into horror. There is at least one episode that really scared me. To be honest, each episode has something that makes you shudder with disgust or fear. But I think that is exactly the reason that the series is good: your expectations get twisted because the story makes you uncomfortable. That is not to say there is no humour in the stories. Which is a good thing, otherwise watching this would be torture.
Eén van mijn favoriete afleveringen is de kerstspecial, waarin 3 verhalen tegelijk worden verteld. Ook de openingsaflevering van het vierde seizoen is een van onze favorieten, omdat het speelt met Star Trek en virtual reality-achtige situaties.
One of my favourite episode is the Christmas special. It features three different stories that are told at the same time. Then the opening of the fourth season is another favourite, with a take on Star Trek and virtual reality. Both episodes deal with unsympathetic characters and yet there is plenty to laugh about.
Why watch Black Mirror
If you enjoy stand-alon episodes that do not form a continuing story, then look no further. This is science fiction the way I like it: challenging, exciting and a slight warning how things could go wrong. It is also well-written, in an accesible way, for non-sf fans that simply like good stories and drama. In the end all episodes deal with human nature. With or without technology.
Science fiction is a tough genre for Dutch people. We don’t like it very much. But because the subjects that Black Mirror touches are so familiar, this may be the exception. One episode deals with a robot of sorts. This ties in with a real life occurance where tweets of a man who died had been used to create a chatbot. That may sound disrespectful, but as I understood, the man’s mother found some comfort in chatting with this bot. The step from chatbot to robot is smaller now than it was 40 years ago. Many of the episodes are like that, which allows the viewer to get immersed in the story.
Not an easy series
As I said: the first episode was disgusting, in my option. Especially when I first saw it. And there are many episodes that make you squirm uncomfortably. But look beyond that and you will find brilliant stories. The shock tactics are just a smoke screen. I’d recommend this to sci fi fans and to people who enjoy dramatic stories about life.